William Arruda, Senior Contributor
Nov. 4, 2022
The Alan Parsons Project wrote a hit song called “Time,” which had a haunting refrain: “Time keeps flowing like a river (on and on) to the sea.”
Those lyrics remind us that time exists without our intervention or control. Time is the truly most valuable commodity on earth. For us mortals, it’s limited and it can’t be slowed down, stopped, paused, bent, reused or otherwise interrupted. And these days, with all the things we need to do, it feels like there just isn’t enough of it.
Since we can’t manufacture time or buy time (that would put a lot of us in debtors prison), we need to use time differently. That’s the only solution to reducing our sense of stress and overwhelm because of the demands on us. Here are some simple ways you can work within the constraints to make sure you always have room for the things that are truly important to you.
Unsubscribe from emails you get regularly but know you’ll never read. You ignore them, but they arrive over and over, making it more difficult and time consuming to wade through your messages. They create mental clutter when you look at your inbox and have to hit page down multiple times to get to the important emails, not to mention the amount of time you spend deleting the emails from organizations you have no intention of engaging with. According to a study by Live Career, 55% of people spend between two and four hours a week sorting and deleting emails. Adopt a new habit of unsubscribing every time you see one of these microtime sinks.
Start with what you have
We are all mesmerized by shining new objects as we look for tools to help us be more efficient and productive, yet many of us aren’t using the tools we have in a way to maximize their value. There are so many articles that highlight products that promise to reduce time spent, but rather than add a new tool, you can identify features in the tools you already use regularly (like email, Slack and Zoom) that will help you be more efficient. Most people only use a fraction of the functionality in their current tech array.
Upgrade your do-list
Most of us have made the switch from a paper do-list to one of the many tools that help us manage our tasks and our time. To maximize time, find the do-list tool that fits with the way you work. Whether it is Apple Note or Evernote or another app, find that one that feels like it was designed for you and give you the shortcuts you need to save time.
Shorten without sacrificing
Reduce the meeting time. In meetings, the discussion often expands to fill the time allotted, so schedule meetings that are only 20 or 30 minutes long use the time you’ve saved to come up for air or prepare for something else. You’ll likely became everyone’s best friend in the process. If you use a tool like Calendly to manage your meeting schedule, set it to allow for just 20- or 30-minute sessions.
Double down on delegating
There are probably some tasks on your plate that you know others should be doing, and there are tasks that can be great opportunities for others if you’re willing to delegate. Let go of the mindset that you are the only person who can do it. And if your ego gets in the way, make extra effort to let go of the mindset that you are the only person who can do it really well.
Keep a Joy Journal
At the end of every day, document the one thing you did that day that brought you the most joy or energy (Joys) and the things that drained, frustrated or exasperated you (Killjoys). After a few weeks of doing this, eliminate the Killjoys that come up over and over. Either delegate them, do them differently or just delete them from your actions.
Actively managing time is essential to being able to build your personal brand and achieve value and meaning from your work. Focus on how you allocate yours, and then commit to enjoying more and wasting less of this precious commodity.
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